Iranians Return to Friday Prayer Despite Surge in Coronavirus Cases

Source: WSJ

By Aresu Eqbali in Tehran and Sune Engel Rasmussen in London

Worshipers were asked to perform ablution at home, bring their own prayer mats and wear masks

Iranians in nearly 200 towns offered Friday prayers in mosques for the first time in two months as authorities eased some restrictions to contain the coronavirus pandemic, raising concerns of a new wave of infections.

Prayer halls and streets leading to mosques were disinfected in advance. State television showed mosque congregants seated an arm’s distance apart. Worshipers were asked to perform ablution at home, bring their own prayer mats and wear masks. Prayer leaders were asked to shorten their sermons.

Friday prayers hold great religious and communal importance for Muslims, and in the Middle East, authorities have faced some resistance for closing them down.

Iran was the first and hardest-hit country in the Middle East, and pilgrims visiting the Islamic Republic helped initially spread the disease beyond its borders. Iran’s neighbors will likely pay close attention to the consequences of rolling back lockdown measures, especially on religious congregations.

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